Lions defense delivers against Brady, Patriots
Detroit — Six plays and five yards.
In the first quarter against the Lions, the Patriots had a hard time getting anything going, as the offense was on the field for just six plays and managed just a pair of three-and-outs.
Tom Brady was 1-of-4 for minus-1 yards and the Patriots didn’t get a first down until the 3:55 mark of the second quarter. By then, the Lions had built a 13-0 lead and had firm control of the game.
The Lions were able to get their offense on track and the defense had gained confidence while holding Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski down for much of the first half.
“We set the tone; we had to be physical and had to out-physical them up front,” Lions defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said. “When they get the ball rolling, it’s hard to stop that team. We had to come out there and get them three-and-outs. We had to get them off the field.”
The trend continued, as the Lions offense continued to chew up yardage, controlling the time of possession for 39 of the 60 minutes in the game. It’s hard for Tom Brady to hurt you when he’s on the sidelines.
Brady finished with just 133 yards and a touchdown, while the Patriots totaled only 89 yards rushing. The Lions defense flipped the script and the offense put points on the board early and often in the surprising victory.
“(The defense) played an amazing game. I don’t know a lot of teams that can hold that offense to 10 points,” said Lions running back LeGarrette Blount, a former Patriot. “It doesn’t happen very often. With the QB they have, it’s a tough feat. They went out and got the job done.
“We’re excited about this win and happy about it. We needed this.”
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The Lions defense struggled in the first two weeks of the season but found a surprising groove against Brady — due in part, at least, to coach Matt Patricia’s familiarity with the Patriots, where he was the defensive coordinator last season.
There were no signs of surprise on Sunday, not even for linebacker Eli Harold, who had two sacks.
“I’m not going to say surprise because I have a lot of faith in my teammates. But it was shocking to see a high-power offense like that struggle,” Harold said. “It was fun. Our offense was out there running the ball, and that’s what happens when their defense is tired, they can’t get their guy on the field, the offense on the field, and we made it happen.”
From the opening kickoff, the fans at Ford Field were loud and frenzied for the prime-time matchup. The announced crowd of 61,769 had a hefty Patriots following but after the Lions jumped ahead early, they got louder as the game progressed.
While the defense held Brady and the Patriots without a first down until late in the second quarter, the Lions seemed to feed off the energy.
“To be honest with you, I really thought the fans were just unbelievable tonight. I thought the noise and the advantage that we had — the games are hard,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said.
“It was a big advantage for us. So, that was great to see tonight. I was glad that we gave them something to cheer about.”
The Lions defense built off the momentum the crowd created and the success they had in the first half, as the Patriots managed just three points in the first half. Francois noticed the support, especially after the Lions’ struggles in losing their first two games of the season.
“I take my hat off to the city,” he said. “The city was here tonight; they were behind us and they were supporting us from the first minute to the last minute of the game.”